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As Seen on TV

Catching up with my CW shows

 You know, I really haven’t talked much about television lately. I get behind, I catch up, and then I get behind again. But at this point it also feels like it would be kind of redundant. “Superman and Lois is the best thing ever”, “I know Flash is getting up there in years, but it’s still pretty good“.

Really it’s pretty much that set of statements all over again. I will say, it’s a little frustrating that evil bizarro Jonathan Kent has one of the best costumes on Superman and Lois. The whole bizarro world saga they’re doing here has been shockingly good. The problem is, this is the CW and I just keep waiting for them to mess it up…

Flash on the other hand, we’ve had two episodes in a row that feel like they’re just filler. I suppose you can get away with that with The Flash, there’s still managing to crank these things out every week whereas Superman and Lois is coming out twice a month and that maddeningly slow pace just ups the anxiety all the more. 
 
Times are quite uncertain at The CW these days, and probably rightfully so. Stuff like Supergirl and Batwoman should’ve been canceled ages ago, and quite frankly I think the only thing that kept Legends of Tomorrow going as long as it did was sheer  momentum. I still maintain that I wouldn’t mind seeing a Showcase show where we get a smattering of arrowverse characters, somebody shows up each week and you never quite know who you’re going to get. An ensemble anthology like that maybe the CW’s last best hope, now that even a lot of their second stringers are gone.

The one that disappoints me the most is finding out that Stargirl was cancelled. I know I’ve been saying it for months, but I need to go back and just watch the rest of that show. We got no more coming so maybe I’ll add that to TV night with Maddie. We made it about halfway through their second season, and then things just got too busy. I kind of regret that now.

Oh well, hopefully we’ll be back soon with some new comics. There’s been so little I’ve actually cared to read lately, but worlds finest number three did pop up on my radar last week I just haven’t gotten to it yet! See you then.
 
 

 


Last Week of March 22

Nothing much worth reading last week other than ghost rider. I’m really digging the spooky vibe they’re really trying to confuse here… It’s street horror spooky. Gothic spooky, not comic book spooky. Two issues in and I’m digging it.

On the TV front, I gotta say, the flash went full CW this week. Literally the bad guy was defeated by the power of “attractive people, standing in hallways talking about their feelings“. I don’t know. I heard we just got renewed for a full ninth season, except I also heard Grant Gustin isn’t appearing in every episode. Look, this is not an ensemble show. You’ve always had a good string a supporting characters, but this is a show driven by the title character… You know, “THE FLASH”???? If we were going to push it more ensemble, well, this point. That ship has sailed. If this wants to shift into a show with more of a rotating cast of characters, it may be time to scrap the flash, in favor of something like “showcase“ or “ The brave and the bold“. Still, the flash generally makes me happy as long as I keep my thumb on the fast forward button.

Superman and Lois has. But here’s the thing, I like these characters. I care about them, I’m invested in them… So I’m not really upset by it being that way. It’s strong enough to survive an entire episode without Superman. These characters that should actually really kind of annoy me… Especially these two teenage boys… No. They’ve consistently kept me engaged and it genuinely surprises me. Even more surprising is the fact that they’ve got me rooting for Sam Lane. Seriously? General Lane was always a jerk in the comics, and they translated that pretty well in the first season. Yet, I’m kind of digging him… Watching him try and do better. Watching him train Jordan into the superhero that he’s obviously becoming. Indeed, the show hasn’t just gone. Brother, it’s gone full Smallville. Watching Jordan this last few episodes it’s very much a similar feeling to watching Clark find his wedding as his power started to develop in the show. It’s interesting, I watch Lois‘s reaction to Jordan wanting to go out and help people, and I genuinely wonder… Is this way Martha would’ve acted? In a lot of ways, I feel like Jonathan and Martha had an easier time… Clark was a fundamentally good kid who wanted to do right by his parents. Jonathan and Jordan aren’t the same way, and yet they also kind of are. It all makes for really interesting watching… Really interesting comparison and contrast, but absolutely feels like it is the successor to Smallville. And that’s not a bad thing. Smallville was some of the best Superman of its era… Superman and Lois is definitely the best around in our modern period.

I also finally took the time to sit down and watch the Netflix Texas chainsaw massacre. But I think I’ll save that for a little bit later.


Week of 3-7-22

You know, as I looked at my stack of comics last week, I feel a little bad that there’s only one DC title. Then again, marvels kind of dominating things right now with their Devils Reign event and all of its tie-ins. I suppose I make up for the lack of DC comics by focusing on their television instead. I did manage to catch up with Superman and Lois, and my opinion hasn’t really changed. It feels like the last three or four episodes have really just been about cramming as many confusing and heartbreaking emotions in to the viewer as possible and it’s beginning to wear on me a bit. It doesn’t help that they are also indulging in the same, played out “the government is evil” trope that Star Trek Picard is beating into the ground as well… But at least Superman and Lois is watchable The Flash is back as well, after a reasonably strong start with the Armageddon miniseries. I know, technically that’s supposed to be a arrow versus crossover, but considering that we’re crossing over with two canceled shows, and one that nobody’s watching… It’s really just a flash show. In fact, this is turning into the best way to showcase some of these characters. Since justice league tied up the rights to most of the main line DC heroes after the flash, The CW is had to pursue increasingly obscure characters… And it stopped working a while ago. Bringing them in as guest heroes though, that’s actually not a bad idea at all, it has been a lot of fun. It’s helped The Flash kind of reinvigorate the series, after a very slow start to the last season (but also very strong finish)

There’s a bit of a caveat when I say The Flash is back… Because The Flash doesn’t actually appear in this episode. This one is strictly an excess and impulse story, where they’ve done something that messed up the timeline, and they have to go back and fix it… All the way back to right after the explosion at Star Labs. Back to a time before The Flash existed. It’s a good and fun little romp, but this feels suspiciously like a back door pilot to show the chemistry between excess and impulse as they engage in some speedster highjinks.

Actually, that sort of makes sense considering The Flash showrunner Eric Wallace revealed to Comicbook.com that he’s currently writing the Season 8 finale as if it also needs to be a proper sendoff for the series. If that’s true, then I’ll tell you this much, I expect a spectacular season this year, with the show trying to go out on top.

Back to comics, I’m still on board the Batgirls train. Really, the thing that we’re reading this for is a relationship between Steph and Cass. That’s a good thing too, because the current story arc feels like it’s stretching out a little bit too long. This issue feels a lot like filler, with half of the book literally taking place with them going out cruising and checking out a used bookstore. We’ve got Stephanie explaining to Cassandra terms like BFF or Bestie, and it’s actually a little weird. I get what they’re going for and how they’re building this friendship, but we have Cass portrayed is shockingly naïve in a lot of ways, despite being In Barbara Gordon’s care for a long time (an entire series even! Remeber that 2000-2006 run kicked off by Kelley Puckett and Scott Peterson?). Then there’s the constant affirmations that Cass makes to Steph. We get it again in this book… In fact it seems like it’s I requirement that at least once an issue somebody remind Stephanie how amazing she is. Again, it’s weird. Steph is already a complex character. She is broken away from her super villain father, created a superhero identity in the Spoiler, been trained in large part by Robin, falling in love, falling out of love, gotten pregnant, become Robin, died… No, wait, faked her death… Came back, then has been Batgirl. All of this, and she still needs daily girl power affirmation from her best friend?

Like I said. Weird.

It makes me wonder how much of both of their canon has been dropped in the face of the constant DC reboots… New 52 to  rebirth to whatever this currently is. It’s a shame actually, because these desperate attempts to shoehorn girl power and strong female characterization into these characters feels forced, mostly because they already WERE strong female characters… and this kind of stuff actually deconstruction chips away at that. It’s a step backwards, not forwards. Whatever, I’m still going to enjoy Steph and Cass bantering back-and-forth.

Devils Reign continues to be good stuff, and actually so does the Superior Four. It’s one of those tiles that probably didn’t even need to be tied into Devils Reign, it’s got enough potential on its own in a what if sort of way. But the real find this month, is the Moon Knight tie-in to Devils Reign.

As I mentioned a week or two ago, I do enjoy prison stories. Devil in cell Block D was a brilliant handling of Daredevil, and the Punisher really works in those sort of context as well. Just look at the first chapter of Circle of Blood, or the one shot The Cell. This feels a bit like an amalgam of both. We have the skill and cunning of Daredevil, mixed in with the murderous brutality of the Punisher.

It’s a straightforward story. Moon Knight gets himself caught and thrown in jail to get at a particular con in there… making his way to him and his bloody revenge through a trail of broken bones and beaten down prisoners. It’s a solid one-shot adventure for people who like this sort of thing. I’m not a huge Moon Knight guy, so it’s hard for me to say what the appeal would be to his fans, but I really enjoyed it despite not being a fan.

I admit, the more I am trying to ease back into reading modern comics, I’m discovering… I’m getting very tired of the Multiverse. Look, this was cool back in the 70s and 80s when DC really kicked it off. It allowed us to have the golden age superheroes on one world and the modern age ones on another… We could have back up stories about golden age Batman and the huntress, and All-Star squadron running… Completely doing their own thing in continuity. At the same time, we could have Superman and Wonder Woman and the Justice League over on another rack, never touched by the events that were happening on earth 2… Except in the very rare crossover every few years, when that you were us would get together and battle a threat like the Crime Syndicate on earth 3. Even Marvel approached it this way around the turn of the century when they were really pushing their ultimate line. It was confirmed that the ultimate comics weren’t just their own continuity, but their own universe when the fantastic four accidentally crossed over into the Marvel zombies universe. Then somebody had the bright idea that the MCU would be just another stop in the Multiverse… And DC then picked up this ball and really ran with it on The CW. The Flash was the first showed a really tie all the various sundry DC properties together, even with that first, brief glimpse of John Wesley Shipps Flash from the 90s projected in the vortex as Grant Gustin hopped worlds.

But now it’s everywhere. I mean everywhere. Hopping between parallel dimensions and worlds is done with the same ease and regularity of jumping in your car and driving one town over to see a movie. What used to be the domain of imaginary stories and rare crossovers has become so common place, that it genuinely waters a lot of the source material down. I peaked at the Gwen-Verse issue this week, and it really just underscores my point and how we are and I am of this stuff. There’s some cute stuff, Gwen is Thor and stuff… But it really just belongs in a sidelined imaginary story, not in main continuity, where everything is now canon. I think we’ve gone a little too far, and it’s become an excuse for lazy writing. Personally, I’d really like to get back to more grounded tales. Heroes that are fairly unique in their one universe and continuity… A minimum of derivatives and a special focus on a non-powered supporting cast. Maybe that’s just the street-level story fan in me, but I really do think that’s what we really need to ground comics and get them back on track. I’d definitely be buying more books if that were the case!

Got a Harper show coming up this weekend with lots of longboxes to dig through. Maybe I’ll start looking for just that sort of thing Sunday!

 


Week of 2-22-22

Could whoever is running the control board over at Superman and Lois turn down the “soap opera“ dial a few notches please?

Seriously, that’s most of what I observed this week. A sort of soap opera filler episode. The daughter found out about the affair Lana‘s husband had. This of course, ruins her quinceanera. Elsewhere, there’s drama between Superman and the General who thinks he’s in cahoots with Bizzaro, that’s why all but one of his team is dead… And Lois‘s partner meet up with the cult leader who slips her Mickey. Honestly, it’s just so soap opera it hurts. I know we’re gonna get past this, but I remember these kind of long stretches in The Flash as well… where it would kind of forget that it’s a superhero show and go full CW.

On the other hand, I don’t wanna complain too much. It’s still the best version of Superman I’ve gotten in ages, and man if they haven’t made Bizarro just terrifying. Like I mentioned last time, that’s no mean trick. We too often see Bizarro as a goof, a clown, and this one is anything but. This one is absolutely a stone cold killer with a chilling warning that war is coming.

Nothing much else on television, although I did check out a couple of comics this week. Nothing great to speak up there as well, it must be filler week for DC. Human target was really one of those stock filler issues as well, with a meeting between chance and Martian Manhunter that primarily occurs entirely in chances head. It does very little to develop the characters and nothing to forward the plot. Same thing with Spider-Man… Although in fairness, Peter is back in costume and getting back in action here, teaming up with Ben Riley. It’s more a penultimate story than it is a real driving force. That is to say, nothing to write home about. I’d really like this arc to be over soon please? Maybe get back to a status quo Spidey for a bit huh?

The one thing that I did find interesting this week was Devils Reign : Villains for Hire. The Kingpin, now mayor of New York, is doing the whole thunderbolt thing. Incomes USAgent basically offering his services to try and keep these villains under control. I’ve always enjoyed USAgent, and this is a prime example of why. He doesn’t have the virtue or moral fiber of captain America, but he definitely has the drive and the earnestness. When it comes to Truth, Justice and the American Way (hey, that’s catchy!), he’s a true believer. It’s a nice little side step. It can’t really stand on its own, but as a sort of sidequel, it’s one of the better ones.

 


What we watched on 2-2-22!

Superman and Lois is getting a little heavy. The mayoral race is turning into dirty politics, and they’re gonna start going after Lana’s daughter, her emotional problems and suicide attempt, but even worse… It looks like her husband has a secret from his drinking days. It’s all about to get very ugly.

Equally ugly is the cult leader who is coming for Lois, and who brainwashed her younger sister Lucy. I don’t like this version of Lucy, neurotic and spiteful instead of happy-go-lucky and flighty. It’s all some heavy stuff, watching these characters that we like being ground down a bit. I’m sure it’s going to end well in the end, but it’s not quite as much fun as I would normally like. John Henry’s down as well, having taken a beating from Bizarro. This is a really interesting thing. They are doing really good stuff with Bizarro. We tend to forget just how dangerous he really is because we’re so used to him being the clown. But he’s every bit as terrifying as any kind of Superman gone wrong. I’m looking at the title of next weeks episode and I suspect we’re about to see Steel’s daughter in her own suit. I was fairly confident that was gonna happen once they brought her in, and now I’m certain of it. Things like this, and Jordan experimenting with his superpowers, asking his grandfather to train him in secret, it’s all really compelling character development and I’m enjoying a lot of that kind of stuff. 

Ultimately, this feels very much like a transition episode. Not necessarily filler, it’s full of stuff that we need to know going forward, but it doesn’t stand on its own as a singular adventure. We’re very much into a proper territory right now, but, it’s interesting to see where they’re going with this, and I’m eager to see how it resolves.
 
By the way, is anybody watching The book of Boba Fett? I haven’t tuned in yet… Honestly, it’s one of those I’ll-get-to-it-when-I-get-to-it deals for me, but this week really wasn’t was it? This week was at least 60% an episode of the Mandalorian. Because of that, I fired up Disney+ to watch and, wow. This is everything I could’ve hoped for. There was talk when Mandalorian season two ended that we’d get a Christmas special just to touch base with Mando and Baby Yoda. That Christmas special never materialized, and I suspect that script got rolled into this episode. That’s fine. This is actually the Star Wars that I want. We get to see Luke training Baby Yoda, and some of the Jedi philosophy comes into play as well… Culminating in a pretty heart wrenching cliffhanger. This is good stuff, and a big part of me wonders if they’re just gonna leave us hanging. I bet they are until Mando season three.
 
Prodigy finished up it’s two parter nicely last week as well. Our young crew of rogues recaptured the Protostar and foiled the plans of the Diviner….or did they? Evil Robot Dude tm is terrifying as ever and while they were trying to find a way to take back thier ship, Dal and company managed to free the minors/slaves and give them the gift of communication by some jiggery pokery with the universal translator in Dal’s comm badge. Also we get a punch the air moment with that darling little catian from the first episode as she wreaks an adorably savage vengeance on the security drones.
 
Most importantly, everyone gets a moment here. This cast just works together really well and no one gets overshadowed. It’s good stuff.
 
I had thought this was it for this season, but according to TrekCulture, we’ve got more coming later this year. We ended on a perfect cliffhanger, back in the alpha quadrant with the REAL Admiral Janeway detecting the warp signature of the protostar and setting off to find it – hopefully to rescue her former first officer Chakotay. You know, one of the amazing things about Prodigy is how much it actually makes me CARE about the characters from Voyager (not that I hated the show or anything, but it didn’t keep me engaged past the third season and was around the time in the 90’s that I dropped off). I’m excited for it’s return later this year!

You know what else I’m excited for? March 3rd, and the return of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe!
 
Stay Tuned.
 
 
 

 


Catching up! Prodigy, Superman and The Flash

Do you know, I was just complaining last week about this weird aversion modern Trek has to uniforms. In Picard we don’t get them much at all, and even in Discovery they seem to be out of uniform as often as they’re in. And then there’s the strange approach that Secret Hideout (the company that currently produces Star Trek for Paramount) has taken… Different uniforms for different series. Not necessarily for different ships – the Enterprise in Discovery has red yellow and blue uniforms where is Discovery was still wearing thier plain blue… And so was Starfleet command. But then Lower Decks has their unique uniforms that don’t match what we see on the Titan or in flashbacks. It’s all strange and quite frankly, offputting to me. Still, I’ve been wondering what exactly the uniforms would look like in Prodigy. When all the characters showed up and pretty much just wore street clothes through the entire thing, I was a little disappointed. At least Jayneway looked familiar. But I do recall making that comment about wanting to see more uniforms.

I should’ve kept my mouth shut.

I’m not sure how Secret Hideout’s Star Trek has sunk from Discovery, which in its first season, had some of the best looking uniforms I’ve ever seen (I really do like those blue and gold costumes, with different trim denoting rank just as much as the pips on the arrowhead insignia). I even like how they translated that into classic series uniforms for the Enterprise crew. But since then, everything is really gone wonky. The uniforms in Star Trek Picard are the worst sort of fanfiction, and Discovery has turned their uniforms basically into fluffy pajamas. In fact, so has Prodigy. Everything’s pajamas.

They’re weird. Asymmetrical with a very high waist extending well into the abdomen. The white and gray color scheme is actually a bit reminiscent of the motion picture, which is not a story you want to be evoking. You’re still trying to go with the shoulder motif, but it feels more like those sloppy gray jumpsuits that we would see extras wearing anytime the next generation crew beam down to a science lab on any given episode of the week. I’m not digging them, and they feel uninspired to me. There’s some talk that they could change again though – that these are kind of “experimental” uniforms 9and comm badges too) because it’s an experimental ship. Dan and Kevin Hageman explained in an interview with Inverse;

“Since the USS Protostar is an experimental starship, we felt it gave us some freedom to create our own uniform design, as long as it fit alongside the uniforms of this era. We, [executive producer] Ben Hibon, and our design team spent a lot of time discussing the badge and uniforms. We had to balance the style of our series, while also recognizing these kids aren’t actually anywhere close to being Starfleet Officers, which is why we went for a stripped-down design.”

On the other hand, the series itself continues to be good. We’re heading back for a showdown with the big bad, and they left us on a cliffhanger… Predictably. I can’t complain though, the twists keep coming and in an earnest way this genuinely feels like Star Trek. It outweighs the bad uniforms. If I have one complaint, it’s a moment where the purple captain Dal complains about heading back to base down the big bad guy. “After all we’ve been through, after all we’ve done… I don’t wanna lose you“ he says half referring to albino Gywn and half referring to the rest of the crew.

After all you’ve done? It’s been eight episodes. One of those was a two-parter that introduces all of you. One of those was another two-parter, and one of the other episodes pretty much takes place just on the holiday. You guys have had four adventures, tops. That’s hardly “all we’ve been through“ territory. I could see him making this kind of a common after a full 20 episode season, but it’s been eight!

Still, we’ve built up enough interest and intrigue here, and I’ve got real high hopes for a second season. Nothing ever seems to get canceled over in the Star Trek department of Paramount right now, and this, this is actually good for a change. I can’t wait to see how they resolve that this week.

Superman and Lois is back as well. It’s another one that I was vaguely aware starting up again, but haven’t gotten a chance to sit down and watch. We’re three episodes in, so not hard to catch up on over a Saturday afternoon.

One of my friends told me he’d heard it was getting really melodramatic this season. Well, it’s a CW show. It’s gonna be like that. Actually, I think what I’ve noticed more than anything else, is how predictable this season has been so far. After a good season opener which really feels more like the resolution for all of last year… I could watch this one episode and have closure for the series… It’s easy to see a couple of things. Lana is going to run for mayor, Jordan’s girlfriend Sarah cheated on him while she was at camp, and there’s a monster in the mine which is connected to the seizures Superman’s having. Also, Steel and his daughter Natalie are going to end up bunking with the Kents in Smallville.

By the end of the third episode, I had pretty much been proven right on every point. That’s not to say that the series has gone downhill, it just feels very average this year. I’m not having that ear piercing squeals of delight at the end of each show as I was last year, but then again, “average” on this series is actually still better than “great” on a lot of other CW DC properties.

I’m rolling my eyes a little bit at the fact that Sarah cheated on Jordan with another girl… We gotta get that forced tokenized diversity in there! Even if it means changing up a character who previously hadn’t shown any indications of same-sex attraction. I’m going to be very annoyed if they go through the predictable route and have her together with John Henry’s daughter Natalie by the end of this season. Nevertheless, I suspect that’s where this is going. I also didn’t like the little dig at the US at the beginning of episode one. Yes, I understand Superman’s a citizen of the world, but there’s always been a balance between that and Truth Justice and the American Way.

(from Superman #713, July 2011)

It’s all small stuff, they’re not pushing it in our face, and 10 years ago, it have been easier to just kind of let fly by. But with the generally woke direction that most CW shows go, I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop here, and I’m hoping that’s not it. This is still the Best Superman we’ve gotten in well over a decade, and still possibly the best Lois Lane ever. It’s really good to see Lois and Clark dealing with parents all the issues, teenage boys and raging hormones, break ups and high school drama. And amid all that, seeing them admit to their own insecurities and doubts. Still the best superhero show on the CW, and a really great version of Superman. Looks like we’ve got a very interesting big bad this year too. I know they were kind of trying to fool us into thinking that thing in the mine was going to be Doomsday, and that suit was dead on. Unfortunately, IMDb ruined the identity for me about 30 minutes early when I went to look up the name of one of the actors. Aargh!

Last but not least, The Flash is back. Something that was interesting last year was just how much we weren’t talking about this year’s crossover in my social circles. My friends actually made a point to mention it’s weird how there’s no build up for Armageddon, no hype, nobody seems to care.

What’s interesting is, this really isn’t a proper crossover anyhow. It helps if you go in understanding this. What Armageddon is is a Flash miniseries. This is absolutely based on the Flash, and on his current team. Cisco Ramon seems to finally be gone for good but we’re getting plenty of other cameos.

And that’s the thing. While we do actually get a pretty full episode with Ray Palmer A.k.a. the Atom, Alex Danvers literally phoned in her cameo in for the next episode. It’s a head and shoulder shot on a video screen for a couple of minutes while she does some research for the team. Black Lightning is a little better, probably spending an entire day shooting in the hall of justice along with Barry. But really, if you’re looking for one of those epic events like we got with Crisis, you’re gonna be disappointed. in fact, if you’re even expecting one of those fun one-note crossovers like Arrow vs. The Flash or Barry showing up on Supergirl….no. It’s not really even that. These are walk-ons.

If on the other hand, you remember that this is just a Flash miniseries, you’ll do fine. The format actually works really well for The Flash. The series, even in its eighth season is keeping up to the kind of average feel it had last year. It’s not spectacular, but it didn’t run out of gas the way I thought it would. It’s actually nice to see everybody again, and especially nice to spend some time with Brandon Routh playing the Atom. Watching Ray and Barry pall around during the first episode just feels right. It feels like an issue of Justice League or a comic book where they just happen to slip a guest star in. That may be one of the things that we’ve missed about some of these characters. The fact that it’s not so much that they’re team flash, or team arrow, or legends, but rather that they are all part of the whole… DC… Super friends…family… Thing. It’s also enjoyable to see Vincent van Gogh from Doctor Who chewing the scenery as a big CGI version of Despero. The costume is a little weird, but the face is dead on.
Is it just me though, or did they cut the budget this year? The CGI third eye on the Despero‘s forehead seems off and cheap. It often feels like they’re having a hard time tracking it and keeping it in the right place. Perhaps it’s just because the eye itself moves and looks around, but either way it gives the impression that the CG overlay is off. It’s distracting. Fortunately, Despero isn’t a front and center most of the time, with this adventure focusing very squarely on team flash and their own investigation.

Episode four is probably where we get the closest to the feel of a real crossover. Barry finds himself in an alternate future, where the team includes Batwoman and Alex Danvers, back for a more meatier role. It’s a flashpoint, or rather a “reverse flashpoint“ created by the Reverse Flash. The end result is he and Barry have changed places with Barry being the villain and him being the hero, and also the team is shuffled into different characters now. It also features the return of Damien Darhk, but really, recurring villains don’t exactly make for a satisfying crossover reunion. And this is anything but a reunion. Not only is it that woman, it’s the new Ryan Wilder Batwoman, not the version played by Ruby Rose that the team had previously associated with. It’s an alternate universe, so I guess it can make sense, but we really don’t have any connection to this character in this contex, and Alex? Well she’s really just a friend of a friend at best. Sure, she attended Barry’s wedding, but it was just as Kara’s plus one. She makes sense as somebody that they happen to know in the DEO doing them a favor, but it’s part of the team,… Let’s just say I don’t feel like we’re getting the A-list anymore.

It doesn’t really matter though, they’re essentially background characters. There are obstacles for Barry to get around as he and Damien Darhk do their best to restore the previous version of reality… Something that will not only save Joe West, but also Damien‘s daughter.

That’s interesting… I’ll get back to that in a minute.

The rest of the heroes though, you could’ve plugged in any one of the random Legends or characters from outside the Arrowverse – Doom Patrol, swamp thing, Stargirl… And the story would’ve basically played out the same. However, that woman really needs the ratings boost and the CW is still trying to pretend that Supergirl didn’t stink for the last few seasons. I get the impression that that’s what these particular pics were all about. That, and the fact that there aren’t enough lesbians in The Flash.

Tom Cavanagh however, is a welcome return. He slides right back into the role, and feels like family. You almost forget that he quit the series halfway last year. I’m glad to see him back, and to be fair, it’s kind of nice to see him stick around for more than one episode.

Barry rights the world here, but we still have episode five to go… And this installment is really a glorified epilogue. I guess star on this one is Mia, daughter of Green Arrow, and taking up his mantle in the future. She’s here to kill Reverse Flash and find her brother. So we get 42 minutes of will-they-won’t-they, and of all the episodes, this one feels the most like filler. That’s something all the crossover stories have, they tend to stretch themselves out just a tad too long, and this one is no exception. On the other hand, it’s a nice time visiting with familiar faces, and like I said, I’m really happy to see Cavanaugh stick around for just a little bit longer. The story is one part crossover, one part filler, and one part set up for when Mia inevitably returns later on in the season. I don’t really mind that, she feels like she belongs here. It’s an interesting legacy though I’ll admit, for me, she doesn’t quite radiate Ali‘s presence yet. I felt Oliver‘s participation in this crossover farmer keenly during the fight between Flash and Black Lightning back in the hall of justice. Flash crashes through the glass case where all these green arrow suit is capped, and his gaze just falls on the bow, as it lays there on the floor. It’s a poignant moment and a reminder that Green Arrow is always with us.

For his part, Barry is very well suited to take over Ollie’s place as the elder statesman of the arrow verse. It’s a good role for him, and if this miniseries does anything it proves that the show still has some life in it. All the characters have really fallen into place and come into their own. Chester has evolved beyond being just Black Cisco, and Iris‘s assistant just feels natural by her side at the Central City Citizen. I almost feel like this team is firing on all cylinders again, probably thanks to having enough time to ramp up this year and execute a story properly, rather than the truncated and strange schedule that the plague afforded us last year. Of course, we only get these five episodes, and the series goes back into hibernation through January and February. The good thing is, the miniseries format actually kind of suits The Flash now this far in, and it also makes for an easily digestible binge watch over the weekend. It’s actually got me looking forward a bit to see what they do next month.

There was something else though that struck me this weekend as I caught up on my DC shows. It’s in the back of my mind with Stargirl as well… Which I’m hoping to go back and catch up on this coming weekend. A theme that I’m noticing here, is fatherhood. There is an immense focus on fatherhood and how necessary fathers are. I’m not saying that it’s completely new, we’ve always had a kicking around with Joe West, but I feel a renewed emphasis on it right now. Not just with the inherent nature of Superman and Lois, but also the relationship between Lana‘s husband Kyle and their daughter Sarah… Buying an old car for them to fix up – a father daughter project.

It’s in Stargirl‘s relationship with her stepfather. This guy, not just taking on the role of father, but mentor. It’s tough enough being a dad, but raising a superhero? And they treat it with such respect. He’s not just a bumbling goof, he’s a little dorky, but he also knows stuff. He’s also right.

Moreover, the last two episodes of the flash were all about fatherhood. All about Damien Darhk, a villain, teaming up with a hero because it meant that he could save his daughter. It was the Absolute anguish on her face when she just got one moment to see him as they both passed through realities. Heck, it was even Team Flashes investigation into Joe West death that really allowed them to solve the greater mystery of Armageddon. There’s really an unusual emphasis on fatherhood that I’m seeing in this last 18 months or so on The CW, and I like it. I’m hoping I see more of it.

Stargirl next week? Maybe?

 

 


Star Trek : Prodigy

Star Trek Prodigy is back after its brief holiday hiatus. I kind of lost some momentum with the show during the break, so I keep forgetting that it’s on. However, I managed to catch up this weekend, and I’m still a fan.

Star Trek Prodigy is surprisingly episodic, though there is an overarching story with the bad guy who’s mining colony they escaped from. He’s still searching for them and more importantly, for the ship.

But that’s really not the big news. That’s not the thing that makes this work. It’s far from Star Trek Discovery or Picard, both of which traded optimistic humanism for nihilism and have mistaken cynicism for wisdom and original thought. It’s also not Star Trek Lower Decks which feels like it was somebody learning as much as they could about Star Trek just so they can trash the fans.  They’re not laughing with us, they’re laughing at us. Really. They said it out loud.

No, Prodigy feels different… Almost like… Star Trek?

One of the big differences that I’m noticing in the series is that it’s an ensemble. It’s a diverse group of misfits. And in this case, it’s truly diverse. Whereas on Star Trek Discovery, diversity just means no straight white men… (In fact as few men as possible, thanks)  In Star Trek Prodigy, we have male and female, each a different race with their own personalities and quirks. Much of the current crop of Star Trek doesn’t bother developing personalities, rather their entire characterization is the superficial… “I’m the black one”, “This is the gay one”, “That’s the black gay one!”… And the only characters getting any real development are their leads.  Star Trek Picard is entirely focused on deconstructing Jean-Luc Picard, whereas Star Trek Discovery is all about the almost Christlike perfection of Michael Burnham. They’re definitely the stars of their shows.

Star Trek Prodigy doesn’t have a star. It has an ensemble.

Thing is, this is really were Star Trek shines. It’s the thing that always worked about Star Trek. Even back to the original series, where the idea was to have a star in William Shatner, the show very quickly shifted into team mode… No longer just being about Captain Kirk, but being about Kirk Spock and McCoy as one unit… And even the second string characters each got their moments (especially Chekov and Scotty who really got development in the later seasons). Likewise, Prodigy is very much an ensemble. It’s not just about Dal, the purple captain. It’s not just about Gwyn, the albino white girl with the AWSOME thought metal sword-armlet-thing, or big rock girl ( Rok-Tahk is consistently my favorite character on this show, although gelatinous Murph comes in as a close second). It’s not even about hologram Janeway, arguably the most recognizable element of the series. She’s not the lead, but she’s also not just a supporting character. Everyone has equal weight, everyone gets equal development, everyone has equal importance. They work together to make something really special.

I mentioned in a previous post, because it’s set and the far-flung reaches the universe, and I don’t even know what time period it is, it’s not quite so burdened by the continuity. It allows it to restart. That’s a smart thing. This is very much intro to Star Trek, a good way to ease new viewers into the series. The characters act as our avatars, as they discover things like the holodeck, the transporter, the replicators, and more importantly… they’re discovering the heart that always drove Star Trek. The character, and the engaging storytelling. Unburdened by continuity, or the preachiness of current year politics, We go on adventure after adventure, experiencing first contact for the first time. We’re dipping our toe in the Kobyashi Maru, and experimenting with phasers and communicators and tricoders and discovering a few secrets that this long lost ship just might have its own.

Also because they’re experiencing all these things for the first time, because it’s all new to them, it doesn’t quite feel like just gratuitous ‘member berries when we see a hologram of Spock show up, or a picture of one of the old ships, or note that phaser designs, while streamlined, or awfully familiar (and, man…what IS it with the fetishization of the arrowhead/delta insigina in all these new series?).

In shows like Star Trek Picard and Star Trek Lower Decks, it feels like they’re just throwing as much of this stuff at the screen as possible to try and remind you “Remember how you used to like Star Trek? Remember the Klingons? You love the Klingons! Remember 10 forward? You love 10 forward!“ It’s all very shoehorned in there. Here, it feels more natural. They are discovering these things with the audience, and it feels new. The fact that there’s Klingon writing on the side of that cloaking device in the junk pile? That’s for the old viewers. Something for us to spot (but with no attention drawn to it) while the new viewers get to discover what a cloaking device is in the first place. It’s organic and natural.

I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying this. Along with a lot of the traditional Star Trek designs and tropes, we get some stunning alien designs, and some real innovation. One of the bigger shortfalls of Star Trek in the late 90s, was everything started to look the same. You had the same people working on the show for 20 years, and the alien computer started to really resemble the federation ones. The lines of the ship were kinda distinct, but still felt a little too similar to everything we’ve seen before. Prodigy goes out and creates wild creatures and landscapes, trying very hard to go where no one has gone before… While still trying to maintain a reasonably familiar, comfortable look inside the Federation ship. Everything around it though, it’s so new and fresh, that the protostar ship almost feels out of place, The Federation vessel becoming the alien itself.

We’re better than halfway through the season, and we’ve had some good episodes and some filler episodes. We’ve had some things that were shocking, like watching the bad guy sneak onto the ship in the most innovative way possible, and these bad guys are genuinely frightening. We’ve had some real character development in just about everybody, and watching this team start to gel, and really become a crew. 

Look, if you’re not watching Star Trek Prodigy, this is the one to really give a try. So far I’ve enjoyed everything about it. I gave both Star Trek Picard and Star Trek Discovery a good long chance (and I’m disappointed that my faith wasn’t justified – though you can actually see the cracks even as far back as my earliest Discovery blog posts https://argocitycomics.wordpress.com/2019/01/21/star-trek-discovery/ ). And it didn’t take long for me to realize these are not good shows. That they’re just not Star Trek. Honestly, I’ve been burned so much at this point, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it never does. Star Trek Prodigy is solid Star Trek, and the absolute best thing to come out of Paramount+ and Secret Hideout.

 


Murderdrome

Murderdrome opens in a roller derby locker room then jumps right into action. It’s a good way to get you engaged immediately. High energy music, a happy audience and skating sets the tone. There’s some flirting going on outside of the match, making one of the other the girls jealous. Then straight over to listen to the band,  followed by make out sessions in a vintage car.

All in all, it’s a very Daniel Armstrong way of opening the film, but I’m now about 12 minutes in and I’m still not sure what this movies going to be about. The roller punk with a Cleaver is a step in the right direction.

Back inside, the roller derby is in full swing. As an unseen lurker watches.

Leather clad Australian murderpunks lure pigtail rollerderby girl back into the roller rink where they engage in a brutal game of murder derby, where they end up setting one of their pillows on fire, and then just exploding out of existence… Leaving nothing but a talisman. Pigtail girl tries to pick it up but gets blasted into oblivion as well.
Don’t worry, it was just a dream. Or was it!?

When she wakes up, her hapless boyfriend, with a charm necklace for her… the one from her dream. That’s enough for her to fall for him, and drag him out on a rollerskating date. (Because that’s obviously a thing in OZ!)

Dead body, and creepy janitor cart dude explains that she’s unleashed a demonic force.

Then we go to a bizarre commercial for a frisbee hat… it’s all good, it’s just the ad before a murderdrone video on YouTube. She’s basically trying to research what she saw that night. Things go bad when one of the mean girl skaters comes and steals her necklace. Bad as in, a cleaver to the head for one of the girls when they try to escape.
Metal murder punk chase!

Meanwhile, the mean girls are looking for our heroes, but there are murder roller punks between them and the others.

Heavy on spectacle, Murderdrome is well shot and fun, though the lighting can get on the harsh side. It’s very much is the sort of ozsploitation that Armstrong is a great at. the problem is that it’s thin on the story. Even with its meager running time of about an hour, there’s quite enough to fill this whole thing up. There’s an a Normas amount of flair in style, that’s all it is. It’s all flash, but not enough substance. Of all of Armstrong‘s films, this is the one that felt the most confusing. Still, it’s a fun bit of shlock, (seriously, chick has to retrieve the talisman from a dismembered body that’s been tossed in pieces into a dumpster… That’s some pretty hardcore stuff !), drifting from set piece to set piece in a world that feels like it’s just beginning to intersect with the likes of Mad Max. This is one of those movies I’d really love to see a redo on – a remake with a thicker script and a more flushed out concept, more fully explain to the audience.

 

 


Week of 9/20/21 Stargirl and What If?

So, I finally caught up on Stargirl, and got through the first five episodes over the weekend. It’s a show that I watch with my teenage daughter, so schedules frequently don’t mash and I’m perpetually behind. Even now, I’m a single episode behind… That is until the new one premieres tonight!

Stargirl was really the highlight of my television last year. Not only are you pretty much guaranteed to get my attention by invoking and flashing back to golden age DC with characters in the Justice Society,, but it’s also just generally good rollicking superhero fun, heavy on characterization and action, and light on ideology… Sort of the opposite of what the CW’s pattern has increasingly been. Courtney, Stargirl herself is a good character, but even more daring is the fact that instead of going through the bad Dad trope, they actually explore her complex relationship with her stepfather, played by Luke Wilson who steals every scene he’s in. There is resentment there but there’s also some genuine affection there, with a Dad who’s just trying to do the best he can, and isn’t portrayed as bumbling or stupid… But perhaps a little overwhelmed sometimes.

After defeating the Injustice Society last year, series kind of has to start fresh this year, and giving it the whole “Summer School“ hook was a delightful idea. It probably would’ve worked better if the show had managed to premier back in July or so, but I understand that the plague has wreaked havoc on shooting schedules so I’m willing to give them a little slack… Especially when the end result is as fun as this.

The evil daughter Shiv is back, trying to rebuild her parent’s Injustice Society with the kids of the original members. Obviously, that’s going to be the main baddie this year, right? Except there’s something awfully familiar about the black crystal that she’s using and channeling for power. The first episode opens with one of the creepiest little kid sequences I’ve seen in a long time, and even my daughter immediately realized… Eclipso was coming. The Shade also arrives this season as well. The Shade’s been a regular villain when it comes to this legacy, I’ve just finished reading James Robinson‘s excellent Starman run from the 90s, and the Shade is all over that thing. True to form, he’s a villain, but sometimes he’s not… Again, complex. Serious props for challenging writing here.

In the meantime, the gang is all back, and facing their own issues. Hourman still feels isolated and is feeding something that I suspect is Solomon Grundy related in the woods. Dr. Midnight is dealing with her parents divorce, and Wildcat is still trying to reconcile the fact that she killed Brainwave Junior. I know that’s a lot of gobbledygook to throw at you all at once, but it’s genuinely good stuff and propels the whole series developing forward. Despite this, there’s actually a noticeable lack of attractive people standing in hallways talking about their feelings. It’s still there, but not nearly as present as in say, The Flash.


Once we hit episode five though… remember how in the last third of Superman and Lois, it seems like every episode I was saying “this feels like a season finale cliffhanger… Or a penultimate episode right before the season finale“. Stargirl goes right ahead and does it in episode five, with a face off of the new injustice society versus the justice society which results in Eclipso being freed. And man, Eclipso does not disappoint. The make up and look is dead on, increased in detail for television, and every bit as terrifying as I remember him from those crossovers in the mid 90s. It’s shockingly effective. I guess that means I really got a find a good way to bribe Maddie to sit down and catch up on last week and this weeks episode… Because I’m dying to know what happens. Perhaps if I bribe her with more episodes of He-Man

What if continues to be the strongest of all the marvel television series. Perhaps it’s because it’s not truly bound to continuity (yes, I know some stupid editor said “it’s all in continuity”. That’s not really the case, even if you rationalize multiverse nonsense.) but also because it very much feels like episodic MCU. Really, that’s what the movies have been trying to do for a while now, but to get it chopped up and served in bite size half hour portions every week, with different elements of the MCU, played by the same people and featuring the same look in environments… It’s actually really satisfying.

I once said I prefer Doctor Strange in other peoples movies rather than his own, I’m beginning to wonder after his What If episode, if it’s just that I prefer him in smaller doses. What if Doctor Strange lost his heart instead of his hands actually feels like it could be its own standalone thing within continuity, if they just tweak the end. It’s actually a nice visit with a good doctor in that world, and takes some chances with some of the dark themes it uses. Of course it’s not nearly as dark as Marvel Zombies. My daughter is a huge fan of marvel zombies, she’s collected all the comics, and this is actually the episode they got her into What If. I agree with her assessment, Watching this episode just makes me want an animated marvel zombies series on it’s own. It’s that good. It captures an interesting variety of heroes from different films, and while there’s a decision with the vision that I don’t entirely agree with, it’s really nice to see Tom Holland’s Spider-Man here, as well as getting to see Doctor Strange’s cape, with it’s own distinct personality, acting on its own again. That of course brings us to last weeks episode… A little bit of light-hearted fun before things get serious in the last two. What if Thor never had the maturing influence of a rival like Loki… and had just essentially grown up to be a giant frat boy. I feel like I should take some offense of this, but it’s so much fun and has us laughing so much through it… Also it manages to feature Howard the Duck, and Darcy; two of my favorite characters in the MCU. Can we please get a Howard the Duck series? Put it on right after the marvel zombies series… That’s all I’m asking!

It’s been a fun week, and if you get tired of superhero stuff, pop over to Netflix… There is a new season of nailed it up there, which is the most entertaining (if a bit mean-spirited) baking show you’ll ever see.

 


He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

 

I wasn’t expecting much. But at least the show was being honest about what it was. It’s a pure reboot, almost a reboot in name only. They wern’t lying to the fans abotu what it would be #kevinsmithlied , They wern’t pulling a bait and switch #kevinsmithlied , and they wern’t attacking fans as they made what few promotional rounds they did #kevinsmithlied (I just can’t let it go. I lost a great deal of respect for Smith over Revelation. #kevinsmithlied You are no longer a “Man of the people” dude. No longer a dude even. Just another hollywood shill. #kevinsmithlied ) I was just expecting a kids show, with kids tropes and kidspeak.  I was never expecting to be so pulled in.

We didn’t talk about Masters of the Universe Revelation on this blog because it probably would’ve been just 1200 words of me griping and moaning about how #KevinSmithLied, and how trying to deconstruct a heroic and pure character like He-Man…or for that matter, Superman or The Lone Ranger, that sort of deconstruction never really works. Even in the Dolph Lundgren film, where things were grittier and more violent and darker, He Man is still pure. He’s still heroic. He’s not haunted and troubled and angsty. Even worse, he’s not actually in Revelation. Oh sure, he shows up for perhaps two minutes an episode in flashbacks (I know, I timed it), but he’s not actually part of the show. Rather it’s Teela that’s the main character… A subject that has been covered endlessly and far better on far better channels and blogs than mine. But really, did they have to make her such a aunt towards everyone she encounters? (Wait, did auto-correct just… Never mind.)


Netflix’s new He-Man and the Masters of the Universe makes none of these mistakes. This is an ensemble piece, with characters that are genuinely likable. Strong female characters that don’t have to tear down the men to be strong, strong male characters that don’t have to disrespect the women to be strong. It’s actually good stuff. Pure heroics, good and evil. The real hook here is that they flipped the script. Masters of the Universe has always been a heavy fantasy-based adventure with dashes of sci-fi in it. This however, is heavy sci-fi with dashes of fantasy in it. And it works. It genuinely does. It’s everything that I wish the ill-fated 1990s New Adventures of He-Man was.

Because it’s current year, they have to do some race and gender swapping, but because this is genuinely something completely new, I find that it’s not bothering me nearly as much as usual. Teela is a dark skinned girl with white hair, and not related to man at arms. They’re both young… Everybody’s young. She’s already a sorceress, so we’re kind of short cutting her legacy and plunging her right into it, redefining the character in a different role in this sci-fi technoscape. Ram Man has been gender swapped to be Ram Ma’am. It’s the dumbest name and drew the most ridicule during commercials, as well it deserved. However, this character is so well thought out, she gets more backstory and depth than poor old Rammy ever did. It’s impossible not to like her. Krass (I swear I thought the name was CRASH -and it SHOULD HAVE BEEN! Seems more appropriate) may actually be my favorite character of this reboot.

Cringer has a new role here as well. Because we don’t have man at arms available to be the wise old mentor, that role has actually been passed on to Cringer. It’s a dramatic departure from what we’ve seen before but, they actually give us an interesting backstory for him, why he has that name, and a real reason for his aspirations to hunt and fight. It has every bit the depth and emotion that Revelation promised, without the whining and angst.

The other big criticism I saw the series was that Orko is now a robot. And that’s true… Sort of. Robots are common in the society ( technology is just a fact of their existence. Almost Star Wars in the matter of fact attitude they have towards it). The little floaty guys are everywhere. Orko is a re-programmed bot who has been input with the memories of the Trollan sorcerer Orko The Great. So now he thinks he is Orko the great… And part of his journey is learning that this isn’t his real identity, as well as figuring out who he actually is. He’s still the comic relie

f, and he’s quite adorable. I was never one of those that hated him, and this new incarnation is more fun than it has a right to be. It fits into the series, rather than just being dropped in for no reason. There’s a build up and a real journey here. Don’t expect to see him until about halfway through. In fact, don’t expect to see any of the villains in full garb until well past halfway through. There is a real story arc here, despite being episodic. The entire series is very much a learning curve story, something I’ve always enjoyed. This whole thing is a slow build up with constant cliffhangers that left me seizing the remote to furiously hit the next episode button – which led me to binge it in two days. Two nice and easy morning sessions, about two hours each. At 10 episodes it’s easy enough to get through, and absolutely left me wanting more. This sort of reboot is not only what I wished new adventures had been, it’s the sort of reboot I wished Princesses of Power would’ve been. I set my 15-year-old down to watch it with me on our weekly television night. She and her sister grew up watching the 80s He-Man and She-Ra on DVD with me, as well as playing with the toys. She knows the series, and while she’s not quite as invested as I am, if the producers were doing it wrong,  it’d be just as likely to piss her off as it is me.


She loved it.

Teela just fasciantes her and she absolutely loves the alternate costume. Krass keeps throwing out lines that she insists need to be motivational posters . (“Every problem can be solved by ramming them with my helmet!”). Neither of us can get the theme song out of our heads. She wants more, and so do I. I had planned on passing on the action figures… I’m not a huge fan of the distorted character design, but it sort of melts away as I watched the series, and now that I’ve finished it, I need every one of these toys. Seriously, I need a second season, and quick. Please Netflix more of this. More He-Man and the Masters of the universe, and less Revelation ( #kevinsmithlied ). I’m totally ready for a new adventure.

 


Catching up on What If?

Of all the marvel cinematic universe shows, the two that I have been looking forward to the most were Loki and What If?. I’m still sad that Loki was such a disappointment, but so far, What If? has fared much better. The thing that strikes me so much about it though is it’s very MCU. This is not merely pulling random marvel characters and doing an imaginary story, this is laser focused on reasonably prominent MCU supporting characters and very interested in re-creating scenes from some of the great Marvel movies -largely fro phase one. The attention to detail is beautiful, the actual actors of been brought into voice their character is wherever possible, and I never feel like I’m looking at a generic re-creation. Backgrounds look like they’re straight out of the films. The costume design still has a very Marvel cinematic feel. I’ve had some people tell me that the animation is a little off-putting, particularly around the eyes. I find that interesting because to me it’s perfect. It actually reminds me a great deal of the animation style used in the MTV Spiderman cartoon that took place between the first and second Raimi movies (It’s underrated, and doesn’t get nearly enough respect. Bridged that gap, and added a great deal more depth to those films. We could’ve used another season in between two and three for that matter!).

There’s still some politically correct elements in here that we probably wouldn’t have paid nearly as much attention to five years ago before The woke went on steroids. I’m perfectly willing to give that stuff a pass… Captain Carter has no real heroes journey, but her strength isn’t at the expense of Steve Rogers he still gets to be a hero and sacrifice. His character is very evident in What If?. There’s some opportunistic journalists right now capitalizing on saying T’Challa is a better star lord than Peter Quill, but he’s really not. He’s just different. A different focus, and apparently Black Panther has a Secret power that everyone just automatically likes him. They should really make that a thing, like X forces domino having a knack for things just naturally falling into place. Then again, Quill starting off being flawed and learning to be a hero was the entire point wasn’t it? If anything, that robbed T’Challa of any character development or heroes journey.

Episode three benefits greatly from being able to showcase most of the original MCU Avengers as well as being focused and voiced by Samuel L. Jackson. There’s an interesting twist that just touches a bit on the later films, but for the most part is still heavily rooted in the early and best of the MCU, something that’s really appealing.

All in all though, I think I’m enjoying what is the most of all of the MCU TV series, and I hope it keeps up the quality. It’s fun, it’s episodic, and is really exactly the sort of thing that I’m looking for… A chance to dip my toe in the Marvel universe, without having to commit to three hours, and whatever her social agenda is fashionable this week.

Next week I really ought to catch up on StarGirl.

 


Superman and Lois Return, Loki concludes!

First and foremost, I’d like to thank The Flash for not making me wait two weeks to resolve a cliffhanger the way that Superman and Lois has. The Godspeed war has been consistent, fun, intense, and genuinely good stuff. I still wish they’d stop race swapping characters, but at least Impulse was fairly well done.

Over on Superman and Lois, my biggest observation is that Elizabeth Tulloch just keeps getting better. I look at her, and I just see Lois Lane. She may be the best Lois I’ve ever seen… and that’s saying something. It’s a hard role. You have to balance softness and femininity and the occasional damsel in distress role with being hard-nosed, persistent, brilliant, and brave enough to give off a vibe of this isn’t the first time I’ve had a gun in my face. Some Loises veer too soft, like Amy Adams, Noelle Neil, and even sometimes Teri Hatcher. Others just get way too hard, like Margot Kidder, or Kate Bosworth. Phyllis Coates may have been the only one I ever saw balance it perfectly for her era, but Elizabeth Tulloch’s version is unprecedented in how well-rounded it is.

It may help that she’s at a different time of life. She’s emotionally grounded with her two sons, and we don’t have the on-again off-again, will they won’t they, Superman or Clark debate. She’s chosen Clark, and in fact, was never so shallow as to be infatuated with Superman. I like that. And either way, knowing that they end up together and have established this long lasting relationship, it adds character and depth and just makes her more likable. But she’s still tenacious, she’s still a reporter, and a force to be reckoned with.

I put all this out there, because this week is really her episode. We do get some stellar stuff with John Henry Irons as Steel, but with Superman being mind controlled on the other side of the planet, this episode is really all about Lois taking charge, convincing them not to kill Superman, and trying to support Lana’s family as they suffer the backlash from the community that got possessed by alien beings. The series is just so good, and Steel looks great (although he needs a better helmet). But I got plenty of resolution, in fact, once again I almost feel like it’s the end of the season… Even though I know it’s not. Edge is imprisoned and still planning something nefarious.

As good as the Flash and Superman were, we then have… Loki. Seriously, what happened to Loki?

After such a great episode last week, we come back for the series finale, and… nothing happens. This episode is literally just people talking at each other. Mostly people talking at each other from one side of the desk to the other. It’s an oral history of the marvel multi-verse. That’s all. Nothing happened. Even during a brief sword fight, it really is only there to mask the fact that they’re still just talking back-and-forth. I am utterly disappointed, and genuinely bored. And I’m getting an enormous amount of heat from Loki STANS online, not just because I think it was a wasted opportunity, but because I didn’t think it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Literally. I tried to find nice things to say about it, amazing music, beautiful imagery, and I mean that. It IS a gorgeous show, with some of the best music I’ve ever heard in television. There was also one cute bit that made Miss Minuets, the animated clock girl look very sinister – but after that intro, nothing happens! Not a single thing happens in this episode! It’s all just exposition… and me saying that seems to offend some people. The common response is “it’s setting up phase 4!“ I’ve heard that 1000 times. I understand. I agree actually, Kang is the big bad and it’s setting up the multi-verse. But there still was no story to this series! Iron Man set up the MCU. So did Thor, so did Captain America. And all of them manage to tell individual adventures while setting up the universe. They didn’t just info dump us and walk away. I literally had somebody tell me “I’m tired of adventures, I just want to see the set up for the new movies and the character development!“ Well that’s not really what the MCU is it? It’s comic book adventures. You want a balance between worldbuilding and story (interestingly, episode five hit that balance perfectly). Say 80% story and 20% world building. Loki has that ratio flipped on it’s head, completely backwards. Of all the MCU TV shows, this one has had the absolute LEAST story.

Moreover, there’s no character development here. Loki is the same person at the end of the series that he was in the beginning. He’s not even a character, he’s a sounding board for exposition who occasionally provides positive affirmation for Girl Loki. And Sylvie? She’s also the same character from the beginning to the end. She is the best Loki ever, and that’s all. There’s no heroes journey, there’s no great awakening, the series just… Is. Someone tried to tell me this is a masterclass in storytelling. (You’d have to tell a story for that to be true). Someone actually told me I need to read Shakespeare and I’ll appreciate it more (Shows how little they know about me. Also, try Wagner instead. Loki is far more rooted in the epic northern tales than in Elizabethan England).

I don’t hate Loki (although the MCU stans are really making me dislike it more every day) but I am disappointed. This could’ve been so much more. This could’ve been Doctor Who and Rick and Morty on crack. And it should’ve been. Instead, all we got was a history textbook. A D&D source book. Tom Hiddleston (Who is still brilliant in the role – pity he isn’t given anything to do) staring charmingly at the camera, but no storytelling, character development or adventure of any sort. I could cut this thing down into a 100 minuet film and still get all the necessary world building and character introductions in with better pacing and less filler. (About 80% of episode one, the Sylvie stuff from two, all of episode five and about ten minuets of three, four and six).

All I can say, is I hope What If and Hawkeye are better. 

 

 


Last Weeks TV

All I can say about The Flash is that I really wish it had started off the season this strong. The whole Godspeed War they’ve got going on has been really good stuff. Even though we’re going back to the kind of tired old trope of Barry losing his speed, this show feels dangerous again. I’m enjoying it. Throwing Diggle in for an episode also brings back some of that magic from that original Arrow crossover. With Arrow being over, any further crossover seemed as impossible as it did when the Flash first started. Nice to see Diggs again, and to keep the Arrow flame burning.

The surprise this week though, what is Loki. It’s the first episode of the series that’s really grabbed me and held onto my attention The whole way through. We’ve got multiple variants this week, along with consistent action, and a lot less needless exposition. Oh they still talk, it’s just that when they do it’s actually there to move the story along. Also, Alligator Loki is superior to all other locations. Much like the Flash, I wish the series had started out this good, running along at this pace. Considering how short this run is going to be, it really needed to kickstart itself right off the gate, and it kind of didn’t do that. If it had, I would’ve probably been an instant devotee, instead of reluctantly jumping on the bandwagon at this late date.

So. Who went out to see Black Widow this weekend?


This weeks picks

 

With no Superman and Lois last week it was up to the Flash to pick up the slack – and it did with a vengeance! The episode opens with Barry dreaming of his dead future daughter (Look, either you’re watching the show or you aren’t. I’m not explaining that one for you!), just before team Flash is drawn into a conflict with an army of Godspeeds. I know the show has been derailed by the plague, but it’s kind of been dilly dallying all season and this is the first time I’ve really felt stakes. It’s a great episode that grabs you and holds your attention all the way to the shocking cliffhanger. It’s a good reminder of why I’ve stuck with the show for so long, when all the other CW shows have fallen away.

Loki on the other hand….

I do not get this show. All of my friends tell me it’s the best thing since sliced bread, but I’m bored out of my mind. I’m still convinced that this was originally conceived as a film that they just filled out. 2/3rds of every episode is just talk- info dumps, and the frequent favorite, attractive people sitting in offices talking about their feelings (as opposed to the CW model where the attractive people talk about their feelings in HALLWAYS).  This sort of stuff works when there’s a good “B” storyline to shift to, but this…..it’s ALL the “B” storyline. We get a plot point or two dropped in each episode, but this thing just moves so slow, it’s infuriating, and survives entirely on it’s brevity and on Tom Hiddleston’s charm. I only hope Hiddleston makes it to the end (He’s booked for all six episodes, despite the cliffhanger last week). I’m not certian he will – it’s just too tempting in this current political climate to swap him out with Lady Loki as the main version of the character in the new MsheU. Sophia Di Martino is perfectly fine in the role of the variant doppelganger, but she’s no Tom Hiddleston.

AND WHAT OF MISS MINUETS???

 


Week of June 21st

Getting the reviews in JUST before it’s time to watch this weeks new episodes!

I have repeatedly said over the years that Superman works better on television than he does in film. The thing is, counterintuitive as it may be, Batman works better in movies because Batman is all about spectacle. Superman on the other hand, isn’t. For him, it’s all about character. It really is. It’s about reconciling the man with the super and the exploration both of him and he is supporting cast – one of the things that Superman and Lois has really gotten right. That balance, that exploration, all wrapped up in a slow burn. Last weeks episode paid off set ups I didn’t even noticed had occurred. It was all about exploring the past for half of the episode, and then crashing straight into the newest crisis. But it couldn’t of done it properly without the previous nine hours of set up and character exploration.

There’s also a wise effort to homage what’s come before without explicitly connecting to it. We begin the episode with the creation of the fortress of solitude… And it’s obviously trying to evoke the first Superman movie. Of course in a world where that first Salkind Superman film exists, anything else is going to feel a little hollow… And indeed, the same is true of Jor-el. I feel like this actor is miscast, certainly he doesn’t stand up well against luminarias like Marlon Brando and Russell Crowe. The less we see of him the better. Perry White, he is similar miscast, or perhaps we’re just not getting enough of him for me to judge fairly. That’s OK, because they dangle just enough of that Superman and Lois relationship budding that I feel good about it. I feel like I’ve seen everything I need to (and it’s the most realistic one we’ve ever seen – a natural evolution of thier working relationship, as opposed to a meek Clark trying to get the attention of a callous Lois who is preoccupied with an unattainable Superman). We’ve got the whole Lois and Clark vibe, every bit as much as we get the Smallville feeling every time we’re back in town. Overall, this show is about expanding the mythology, and building on everything that has come before.

Building. You know, that’s an interesting turn of phrase. And it perhaps best represents what I’m really liking about this series. It’s building. Instead of falling into the trendy habit of deconstructing, this one’s trying to build and expand, and that’s what makes it the best Superman we’ve seen in nearly 2 decades. And they’re not done with us yet. We’re only halfway through the season. At the end of the episode, when Lois calls John Henry Irons, to tell him things are beginning… I had chills.

Good thing that Superman was so good, because the Flash… UGG.
Seriously, is it just me or has this season of The Flash been a little bit light on… Well, THE FLASH??? Barry and Iris are off to some deserted island with no cell coverage to go make babies, which leaves Team Flash alone to deal with the villian of the week. Except, it’s not really Team Flash anymore. I mean we’ve got all these minor characters that have kind of gotten promoted in the wake of Wells and Cisco and eventually Caitlyn leaving. We’re going to do this Flash-lite episode just with them? This isn’t Legends of Tomorrow where it’s a pure ensemble, this is a show with a clear lead and all of these jumped up minor characters just doesn’t do it for me. It’s almost as if, let’s say in the fifth or sixth season of Star Trek the next generation… What if they decided to replace Geordie Laforge with Barkley, jettison Troi and just give Guinan a full-time role on the show… Maybe Nurse Ogawa gets promoted to doctor and we get rid of Crusher, throw Ensign Sito into the main security role on the bridge… heck while we’re at it – let’s make a depowered Q second in command!

My buddy Mike says it sounds like an interesting alternative universe, while my friend Bobbie says it makes her eye twitch. But either way, as the prime timeline, as the main series, how weird with this be? That’s kind of what I feel like happening on the flash right now, and I really don’t dig it. I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t even finish this episode.

Loki was similarly disappointing. Again we have a lot of X position, a lot of talk, but it feels like so much filler. I almost feel like they had more material than they could fit in a simple movie, but not enough to fill a proper series or miniseries, so it’s getting stretched out. In a film you’d get rid of a lot of the stuff and just hit the two or three plot points that were given Each episode expeditiously. On the other hand if it were a full TV series, or even say a full Netflix run Dash 10 to 12 episodes, we spaced this talky stuff out a lot more instead of dumping it into 2/3 of each episode. Of course that would also necessitate a B storyline, which is also really lax. Low-key just isn’t all that, and it’s being driven on the sheer likability of Tom Hiddleston. I’m not sure if that’s enough, but considering we are already halfway through it, I’m hoping things will really start to pick up. Otherwise the next few weeks are going to be a bit of a slog.

 

 


Week of June 14th

The main thing that struck me about Loki this week, was how slow it was. The episode was mostly filler (and two episodes in? That’s not a great sign). Don’t get me wrong. We had one or two key plot elements revealed, and that’s good stuff. But 80% of this episode… If this were a feature film, this would be the stuff that got cut. Of course the big reveal that the variant was a female version of lucky, well let’s just say I called this before the series started. At this point, in modern day politics, it was practically a requirement. That said, you’re doing it the right way. Girl Loki is very much her on character, and doing her own thing. Interesting

Over on Superman and Lois, @&$# just got real. Stakes like I’ve never seen before on a CW show, and an explosive climax that was… completely Superman. Not just brutalizing Zod like he did in Man of Steel , not just moping his way through it like in Superman Returns, but an intelligent, clever solution to a world ending problem… Absolutely Superman.

It is not an exaggeration for me to say this is the best Superman I’ve seen in 20 years.

We’re definitely getting more Superman than Clark now. Almost like the first few episodes were frontloaded with Clark story, and now it’s a lot more superman story. It’s an interesting disbursement, and it works. Because as things grow more dire as we move towards a climax, we need Superman more than Clark. Of course now that we’ve hit that climax, one almost wonders where do we go from here? We’re about halfway through the season, but there’s still a lot more to go… and yet this totally felt like it was a season finale. It really gets me eager for what we have in store…

Flash is leaning a little more heavily into intrigue the season. We’re trying to discover things like why the new police chief hates Metas, but we’re also dealing with a lot of B story stuff – like Barry and Iris trying to get pregnant in strange places (like the lab warehouse?), and Black Cisco trying to catalog and dance in his lab. It’s a real effort The show is making to help us accept Chunk as Cisco Ramon‘s replacement… And, it just doesn’t work for me. Cisco was adorkable, where as Chester is just gawky… and not really his own character. He’s just another carbon copy of the archtype, very similar in fanboy inclinatons to Cisco….It’s just feels like a mulligan to me.


Still, it’s a rollicking good adventure with a familiar face, if not exactly a returning villain. But the adventure really feels secondary here. This episode is not really about team flash beating bad guys, as much as it is about really trying to integrate Black Cisco onto the team and more importantly, picking up on some of the threats they been dropping about Cecile. That turned out nicely creepy, and it’s a pleasant change to have attractive people talking about their feelings and padded rooms instead of attractive people talking about their feelings in hallways.  Overall, this is a bridge episode. It’s not filler, but it doesn’t quite stand on its own either. It’s necessary to push the long-term storytelling to the next plot point. Still, if you’re keeping up on the series, it’s fun.

There’s a lot of familiar tech and Easter eggs dropped throughout it, stuff that reminds you why we love the flash and jumped on board with this show in the first place.

And what is this I hear about The Food That Built America having a PODCAST??? I’m going to have to check that out today while I’m on the road. The story of chewing gum was less compelling last night than last week’s potato chip episode, but I’m really still riveted. I hope the podcast isn’t just the narration from the show or something dumb like that. We’ll find out and report back next week!

 


Week of 6/6/21

It’s a weird week when the Flash is on the top of the discussion list, but we had a really good episode this week. Cisco is leaving… I mean, he kind of left the show a couple times already, but this time it’s official. This time they’re really committing to it, and giving us what is very much a farewell story. Sure there’s actually a fun villain in it that does some cool stuff, but that’s not what this one’s really about this very much is Cisco story… And it underscores where we’re at with the Flash. It’s time to end it. The series still has enough heart and momentum great episodes like this really resonate. We had a fairly shocking farewell to Wells, and we know that Caitlyn‘s leaving this year too. All of this at once, it feels like if we were to keep pushing another year, that it would just be a mistake. One by one bid farewell to these beloved characters, and maybe just time to put the chairs on the tables and call it a day. After Crisis, the Arrowverse really was over.

Of course, that doesn’t seem to apply to Superman and Lois (or Stargirl for that matter). Then again, it’s hard to tell if it’s proper Arrowverse or not. It’s not cast or paced like an Arrowverse show, and indeed, we’re even reusing a villain from Supergirl season one – you may remember, back when Alex was straight, she even went on a date with him to get information. Then again, I’m not entirely certain if this is really Morgan Edge after all. This weeks episode ended with a bang and a twist and a cliffhanger that has me very eager to see what happens next.


I guess the big news this week is Loki. I’m gonna admit that I enjoyed it. This may be the strongest MCU TV show… At least the strongest opening for one of them that I’ve seen. That’s not surprising, Tom Hiddleston is effortlessly charming, and Owen Wilson is actually very good when he chooses not to do the Owen Wilson/Matthew McConaughey thing. I am intrigued to see where this goes, although I might be a little bit disappointed if the big bad doesn’t turn out to be Kang the Conquerer!

 


Week of 5/31/21

Man, I watched a LOT of TV this week, and I’m not sure the reason for the increase. Just a lot of catching up I guess.

I almost feel like Superman was a filler episode this week. Then again, when Superman does the filler episode, they still do it right. We’re getting some linking material to bridge between the first part of the season and the next – getting to really know John Henry Iirons, and seeing some of lois’s neuroses in the bargain. We get a good perspective on what it’s like to be the unpowered part of this family – not just her, but for Jonathan as well. It’s good stuff and actually gives us a lot of Superman rather than just Clark. I’m actually really digging this.

No new episode of the flash this week, but I did manage to catch up with the new installment of the Food that made America. This week they are focusing on the invention of the chicken nugget. That I get, it’s actually kind of cool. I’m at just the right age to remember this being new and cool and an interesting innovation. On the other hand, the same episode demonstrated that the egg McMuffin was first introduced in 1976. That means I’m older than the Egg McMuffin… And I don’t think I’m OK with that.


My youngest daughter came to me and requested LEGO Masters. That’s right, the series has started up again, and this was actually a big family favorite for us last year. Will Arnett (better known as Lego Batman) is still chewing the scenery and we’ve got an interesting cast this year. There’s one couple that reminds the kids very much of their grandparents, and I think that’s going to be the family favorite this year. If you haven’t watched the series, it’s worth your while to look it up. I’m not a Lego guy, but I kind of wish I was. It’s the sort of interesting creation play that appeals to me, but requires a certain level of dedication and focus that I lack. It’s amazing to see what they create, and while I doubt that will talk much more about that in future columns, you can rest assured that we’re gonna be glued to the television for the next 15 weeks or so for this series.

But the real thing I wanted to talk about, was the Friends reunion. I know, I don’t necessarily look like a Friends guy… I’m really not. For me, must see TV was Seinfeld, and Friends with just kind of the thing that came on after it. Nevertheless, like everybody of a certain age, I  have long memories of the show and the reunion was genuinely interesting. I always had certain problems with the show, I was felt like Rachel treated Ross like garbage, and was pleased to discover in the reunion, that everybody agreed… They were on a break!

 I always understood the chemistry between the cast and how perfectly they were each seated for their roles, but I came away with a greater appreciation for your physical comedy and the relationships  developed… Brilliant to find out that there was a genuine attraction between Schwimer in Aniston… (who very much looks like she’s had a face lift around the eyes…) and how that translated on screen. It was fascinating to hear the casting decisions, but more than anything I came away with a greater appreciation for Matt Leblanc. Look, Joey was always one of my favorite characters, he’s what I wish I was instead of being a Chandler. But the thing is, watching this reunion, watching these interviews, of all the actors there he comes across as the most… earnest. He’s genuine. Everyone else is still themselves, but they’re their own Hollywood selves. Matt Leblanc on the other hand, seems to give no care. I appreciate the fact that the dude has let himself go gray, and let his gut come out, the man has no pretension and it’s so refreshing. He’s really on here, and just seems so happy to be back with everyone. Of all the cast here, he’s the one I’d like to sit down and just hang out with. I have so much more respect for him now… And quite frankly, I’m one of those guys who still kevtch about the fact that he got passed over in favor of Keanu Reeves for the Matrix.

One of the most insightful things though that I really heard tonight, was listening to Lisa Kudrow talk about how if there was ever be any sort of sequel, any sort of a continuation,… The thing is they left everybody in such a good place. We knew they were safe, we knew that their lives were going forward in a good place. To create any sort of continuation would necessitate unraveling all that… And who wants to do that? I saw the producers nodding in agreement. It was really their words spoken through her mouth, and I couldn’t be happier. There’s talk of a Night Court reboot these days, and I’m horrified. Night Court is my absolute favorite sitcom of all time, and I don’t wanna see it rebooted. It ended with everybody in good places (no mean trick since they only got word that they were cancelled a few weeks earlier and had to scramble to cobble together a half hearted series finale), and I don’t see where retreading that all the ground ever produces something worthwhile. I want to live with my good memories, and the people who created Friends are wise enough to do that. This is a good way to handle it. It’s nice to see everybody back together again, and in some ways it makes me nostalgic for a time that never really existed. I’m certain I haven’t seen every episode of friends. In fact, I probably haven’t seen most of them. I dropped off when I went to college, along with all my other television… And it was right around this time that the show really pissed me off with the way that Rachel is treating Ross anyhow. But it’s still an undeniable cultural phenomenon and this sort of behind the scenes, reunion, memoir storytelling is always exactly my kind of thing. Absolutely worth watching if you got access to HBO max. It’s probably even more worthwhile watching if one of your friends has access to HBO max and will let you come over and hang out for a couple hours.

 

 


Week of March 24th

I was looking back through old posts and noticed my initial reviews of Superman and Lois. There’s a lot of hesitancy there. A lot of trepidation. There’s also a definite hope that this will develop into something genuinely good. I’m pleased to say that it has. It really has.

We got a bombshell reveal this week that had jaws on the floor. Every friend I know who watched this absolutely lost their mind. The show really understands how to introduce characters from the mythology in unexpected ways. Moreover, the character development with Jon and Jordan continues to be strong. We see Jordan struggling with his powers, with the sensory overload that comes with being a kryptonian. This comes in to play later as the episodes MacGuffin, and allows him and his brother to team up to save their dad. It’s all great stuff, and I’m constantly surprised. It’s almost as if somebody at the CW sent out a memo asking if “we could make a show not suck for a change?” It’s turned into the best iteration of Superman on screen since the Justice League cartoon.

Speaking of extraordinary television that I was hesitant about… Did anybody catch High Fidelity on Hulu?

I should hate this show. I should absolutely be frustrated by it’s very existence. It’s all the diversity checkboxes; we’ve got race swapped characters, we’ve got a gender swap, we’ve got a gay person, all wrapped up in a remake that was completely unnecessary. This thing should be awful.

I am beside myself at how good it is.

Admittedly, a lot of this has to do with Zoe Kravitz. She takes this role and in many ways makes it her own. There’s still the inherent slacker vibe with a dash of nihilism that we got from John Cusack, but there’s something else going on here too. Cusack manages to make dumpy ironic clothes look trashy. Kravitz makes dumpy trashy clothes look cutting edge fashionable. It’s effortless. The show is messy, and the characters are complex. We can see some of the performances from the film there… But they really end up just being baselines. They end up almost as if they were first draft.

There’s a wisdom here in splitting up the Marie Disalle character into two different male love interests for Zoe‘s character of Rob. As if they are stripping different elements of her to create greater tension and a more complex intrigue. We hit all the beats, and it’s really fun to hear Zoe’s Robin speak some of the same lines as John Cusack‘s Rob… because they’re delivered so differently and yet it all feels perfect. I almost wish they diverge to more from the source material, because I feel like she’s an entirely get enough chance to shine.
High Fidelity is in fact, one of my top five all-time favorite films. This shockingly does it great justice in an alternate reality sort of way. I’d actually love to see a conversation at the bar between John Cusack’s Rob and Zoe Kravitz’s Rob. I think they’d hate each other.

There was  talk of a second season but it went nowhere. This infuriates some of my friends, but watching the series, I feel like they knew it was coming. They left it not quite open ended… They tied up all the loose strings but left a few pass open if they wanted to pick it back up. Nevertheless, they also managed a sense of conclusion and personality that is surprisingly satisfying. No mean trick that.

So after all of that, it’s going to sound weird that I don’t have a lot to say about the flash. It’s still solid, although I almost feel like this week, we ended their whole war of light storyline… And even the beast story, a bunch of villains breaking out from iron Heights, along with killer Frost, feels like it was wrapped up. Wrapped up clumsily at that… As if they were rushing to close the season. We’re only halfway through though, so why is this I feel so much like a season finale?

 


Week of 5/16/21

Man, that hiatus did NO one any favors. I completely missed that Flash was back for two weeks before my friend Bobbi mentioned to me that she had two episodes on her DVR, and it wasn’t until my friend Vanessa asked a question about the proximity of Smallville to Metropolis that I remembered that Superman and Lois was back on last week. I’m not the only one. the ratings dropped by about 30% and that’s a shame, because Superman and Lois is one of the best things on television right now.

Look, you can tell it’s superior writing when you can actually make me care about the events of a football game.
The episode smartly starts off with a nice action shot piece, and superman being more powerful than a locomotive. In fact, I felt like we got just a bit more in-costume Superman this episode then we have previously, and I’m really enjoying that. Nevertheless, this really is a family show, and the dynamics of the kids are every bit as important.

We’re still watching Jordan trying to figure out the limits of his powers and how to control them.It’s interesting to see his reaction to them, and his new drive to try and fit in on the football team, but it’s equally interesting to watch Jonathan as he tries to balance high school, and being a supportive big brother, despite the fact that it feels like he’s almost beginning to fall in Jordan’s shadow. In the middle of it all, is Clark, doing his best to shepherd his son through unknown waters (There’s an uncontrollable heat vision moment in  this episode – Clark runs to Jordan’s rescue to help as he can’t hold it in. One arm around his shoulders and a hand in front of his eyes – “Let it out”. The moment just kills me it’s so good). We always knew that Superman would be a good father, and watching him deal with young super boy during the rebirth era of the Superman comics, it felt natural. But that was easy. That version of Jonathan was not quite old enough to join the Teen Titans, and still at an age where children listen to their parents. With these 15-year-olds, things are a touch more complicated… especially since they didn’t grow up knowing that Clark was Superman. This is truly, “Superman as you’ve never seen him before”.

Normally when we hear that description, it means the character is going to go dark, or evil, or greedy… Or emotionally shattered… and the truth is, it never works. It never works because we have in fact, seen it before, and the moment you go down those paths, Clark ceases to be Superman. This on the other hand, allows him to be emotionally vulnerable in the most aspirational way possible. It allows him some self doubt, then shows him rising above it, reminding us that bravery isn’t the absence of fear… It’s acting despite that fear.

Aspirational…..and isn’t that what Superman is really all about in the first place?


This is tough stuff to write. I can’t praise it enough, and I want as many eyes on the show as possible, because it deserves it. This is not the cookie-cutter CW formula, and it’s the best superman we’ve had on any screen since the Justice League cartoon ended. When the episode ended, I literally sat back in my chair and turned off my television, because anything else I watched that night would be a step down. (I’d get to The Flash a day or so later)

The Flash continues to be solid. I know I say that every week, but it bears repeating. The hiatus may have worked in it’s favor, because I had to watch two episodes back to back to catch up. One great one, and then one filler one. Still, the story arc that they are establishing now, with the Flash shutting down these different element infused people that the speed force wants to absorb (at least, I think that’s what’s going on. the technobabble in the Flash is not for the faint of heart), it’s actually an interesting take. I almost feel like I’m watching The Flash do its own version of the war of light storyline from the Green Lantern comics. It’s been engaging and we’re seeing some interesting relationships develop. It manages to feel fresh. The speed-force-as-Barry’s-mother was starting to get a little old, and all of a sudden, they changed things up with a twist and pushed the arc further… It works. It really does.

I keep reading articles about how The Flash has become terrible and the arrowverse needs to end. Anyone who is telling you that is an actually watching the show. It’s still good superhero adventures with familiar faces weekend and week out.
The problem with good, is that it isn’t great. And I’ll admit this is not the great show that overcame my initial objections and won my heart in the first couple of seasons. It’s a different television landscape today though as well. When Arrow and The Flash first showed up, We weren’t really seeing superheroes on TV. Especially superheroes in costumes that actually resemble their comic book counterparts. (Even Marvel was hesitant with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D).… We didn’t see too many comic book accurate looking characters in there until well into that series run) We were grateful just for their existence, and overlooked some of the flaws… Like the-attractive-people-standing-in-hallways-talking-about-their-feelings moments. Since then, we’ve started to see other television take superheroes and go more serious; things like the Netflix Daredevil and Punisher and Defenders. Then Doom Patrol and Swamp Thing and even The Boys showed us that we could go serious and even gritty with these characters, yet still maintain their look and identity. It’s a different world, and sometimes the CW shows that have been around for a while begin to suffer from comparison and adherence to a model that compromises CW aesthetics with superhero action. That doesn’t make it bad though, and I’m still judging the flash strictly on its own merits. It’s still on my must see list every week, and you should do yourself a favor and check it out if you’ve dropped it. Superman and The Flash make Tuesday nights a much better place.

 

 

 


This weeks alternatives

I haven’t done a TV blog in weeks because first off, Superman and Lois is on hiatus. The Flash has been solid. Good stuff, nothing extraordinary,… Just a good solid average TV week in and week out. Remember when television was like that? Of course it’s taking a few weeks off too. Falcon and the Winter Soldier actually started out in that same mold, solid entertainment, but then got a little more woke than I prefer towards the end. So all in all, I haven’t had much to talk about. I’ve been seeking elsewhere for my television entertainment.

The Food That Built America has come on my radar with a vengeance. It’s a documentary series on the history channel and in it’s second season, that has absolutely shocking marvelous stories about very familiar food. Nathan‘s hotdogs, white castle, Hershey, but the one that really pushed me over the edge and made me a devotee was the McDonald’s versus Burger King episode. See, if you watched Michael Keaton in The Founder, you know how McDonald’s started, but this episode really tells the second part of the story – how it expanded and the birth of the Big Mac as a reaction to Burger king’s Whopper. You get some amazing insights as to both McDonald’s and Burger King, moreover, it’s fascinating to see the development of such familiar comfort food as white castle, and hotdogs in general. Hershey’s Chocolate and all sorts of other things that just seem a part of normal every every day life. Seriously, I’m riveted. 

The other television I’m obsessing over is the Big Bad B Movie Show. That one may take some explaining.

The Big Bad B Movie Show is a horror host show, much like Elvira or Svengoolie on MeTV. There was a time when every city had their own unique horror host. It’s an art that’s slowly fading away, but in Cleveland, we don’t let go of things quite so easily. We had Big Chuck and Lil John right up through the 90s, and there’s something in the water here that grows horror hosts at a faster rate than any other state in the union. So the newest crop are Leopold and Lenora… And they’re brilliant. The most significant thing about Leopold and Lenora, is that they’ve found a fairly original formula to do the whole horror host thing with, and that’s no mean trick. Leopold is a hipster doofus, and Lenora is a glam airhead counterpart. They’re both brilliant and hilarious. I’ve watched sketches that involve terrible children shows… “So kids, come on let’s start with grabbing the kitchen knife!” And Gwar as a personal injury firm, as well as terrible horror scopes, parodies on the purge, and the worst imitation of Vincent Price I’ve ever seen. It’s all glorious. If I have any complaint, it’s that they also incorporate other local (Somewhat opportunistic) horror hosts the mummy in the monkey, eating up one hosting segment that would be better served by Leopold and Lenora. Nevertheless, the big bad B-movie show is easily one of the best horror host shows in decades… And I should know. I am a bit of a horror host groupie, and yet I can’t sing the praises the show enough. I’m enjoying every second of it.

Well, perhaps not every second of it, they are still stuck with public domain films… Which means they’re showing the same set of movies that every other Internet horror host Joe’s. It’s really the one weakness of the series, but on the other hand, I don’t mind watching Robot Monster and the Last Man on Earth quite so much with these companions to join me. You can watch Leopold and Lenora on the Channel 19 news app, available on fire stick… Or do a web search for WUAB TV Cleveland, and you’re sure to find The Big Bad B Movie Show. It’s absolutely worth your time, and is now the highlight of my week.

 


Week of 3-22-21

falconFalcon and the Winter Soldier continues to be a solid series. The weekly format works much better this time around than it did with Wandavision. It’s a much more straightforward action series and delivers what it’s promised.

The new Captain America suit is growing on me, though I still miss the white stripes on the comic version. John Walker himself is being set up to be fairly unlikable – a little shmoozy and weak. He has all the physical training and all the necessary courage, but none of the leadership or charisma.  Still, I’m familiar with this storyline from the comics so I wasn’t gasping in horror the way a lot of other fans were during the reveal last week. What I found really funny though, was that I was okay with him taking the name. And the shield. But there’s this bit where he jumps into action and they play the Captain America theme from the films….THAT bothered me. That orchestral sting just didn’t belong to him! It feels wrong!

I’m still waiting for the buddy comedy with Falcon and Bucky. We haven’t really gotten there yet. Admittedly, in a normal three act buddy cop film, the characters spend the first act as rivals, the second as uneasy allies who fall out at the end, then the last act is them coming together as a team and friends. This is a six hour mini-series….not a 90 minuet film. But if they are pacing it the same way, we’re just at the end of the first act….even though it took three times as long to get there. I’m willing to ride this out and see where it goes.

154058696_4083867441657648_8614749267349268281_nElsewhere, and earlier in the week, there was a moment from the beginning of episode five of Superman and Lois that really struck me. Lois is talking about Smallville’s annual harvest festival.

“Your dad learned a lot about giving and helping people in need from this… He’s not just super man because he has powers.”They get it. I don’t believe it, but they actually get it!

Incognito superman work at the beginning here as well… And this is actually really smart. Clark and Superman always seem to have the same friends, it’s always one of the things that strains credulity. I’m glad they are dealing with that here.

Despite having a monster of the week, this episode actually really feels more like a transitional one. Not filler per se, because we need a lot of the stuff we see here – filling out of Jordan‘s relationship both with his brother and his not-girlfriend (By the way, that’s a tough role to play. This kid is doing an admirable job balancing the nervous character without making him an unlikable spaz or a whiny child) we get a lot of flashbacks of Clark’s youth in Smallville and him coming into his powers, as well as a very welcome return and Captain Luther. It’s been a while and I’d almost forgotten about you.

But you know, here’s the thing. Even when it’s one of these individual episodes that doesn’t really push the bigger season  arc much, there’s still good stuff. The relationship stuff between the brothers, between father and son it’s just all really good.

indexI’m pleased to say that much as I’d hoped, the Flash is kind of getting itself back on track. This weeks episode was very much a normal superhero romp, with the return of abracadabra. Sure there’s still some people in hallways talking about feelings going on… Especially as Iris is trying to write the story of her time in the mirror universe and other people are getting together in a support group for folks who had been mirrored, but the focus was really on the battle with Abra Kadabra.

Our bad guy has an interesting motivation this time around as well, because he’s coping with the reality shift that occurred after crisis, the flash is been the best place to explore these kind of issues, and it works really well in this episode. I got more than enough time with Barry in the suit, and plenty of running and punching to balance out the talking and reasoning. There’s a reason why the flash has managed to keep going all this time, it is a genuinely good superhero show this is a really nice return the form.

So my friend Bobbie and I were talking a little bit about David Tennant and Michael Sheen‘s show Staged. It’s a sort of zoom sitcom, where the two are talking to each other against the backdrop of certain events… The establishment of a stage show, or the show itself being sold to America. It’s eight episodes and a half hour each and the second season indexjust dropped. It’s enormous fun. It’s the sort of buddy comedy but I think people are really craving right now. Sheen and tenant are having great fun together, familiar faces that you just kind of want to like in the first place. It’s nice to see Georgia Tennant as well, it’s been a while since I’ve seen her on screen although she does occasionally pop up in David’s podcast.

While the first season was fairly low-key with only one or two guests, this second season everybody seems to be jumping on board. The show is already pretty meta, being a zoom meeting and the characters playing versions themselves. This time around were taking that even further, because it while it’s still a zoom meeting, and they’re still playing versions of them selves, the entire story is about how staged is being remade and sold to the American audiences… And who might be playing David and Michael. It’s hilarious. They use this conceit as an excuse to bring an all manner of guest stars from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, to Ewan McGregor to Jim Parsons… It’s a fairly endless list and each episode surprises you with who shows up

The other great revelation in the show is Whoopi Goldberg, playing David and Michael‘s agent. Can I just say something? It’s been a long time since Whoopi has been funny. Not that she’s lost the ability, she just hasn’t done anything that I’ve really enjoyed. A lot of times comedic actors get to a stage in their career when they wanna dip their toe in two more serious fare. Once Whoopi did that, she just kind of vanished from the comedy scene, and while I’m glad to have things like the Color Purple and Star Trek the next generation, I think the last decade and a half of her career has really been defined by her time on the View, with her as a political personality rather than a comedian… And I think we’re poorer for that. Whoopee is leaning into the cranky old broad character, and doing a brilliant job as the tough as nails agent. It is a joy to watch her yell at David and Michael. It is so much fun to watch her be funny inde22xagain, and it makes me miss the days of her doing films like Burglar, and Jumping Jack flash.

Bobbie and I were chatting a bit and she kept wondering why she liked this show so much…. I think I’ve got it. It’s a nice lighthearted comedy, with no current year politics, no agenda, it’s just fun. They’re just trying to be entertaining. They’re not trying to push a message, they’re not trying to sneak in a narrative, it’s just a fun buddy comedy… And I think we really are looking for something Like this. After a day of pushing through the Snyder cut, this was a breeze to blow through. It actually ended too soon.

Staged is currently on Hulu, and if you haven’t caught the show yet I can’t recommend it enough.

 


Week of 3/14/21

 

“I need to drink about this a lot more”
“Don’t you mean….”
“I said what I said.”

I really feel like I need a copy of Disenchantment on DVD or Blu, because it’s just too loony to survive and I don’t trust Netflix to keep it on forever. It’s just a delight to watch and I feel weird that I prefer this to Futurama, but whatever. When Richard Ayoade showed up in episode four I just about plotzed. I totally want to spend my next vacation in dead monksburg.

“Someone get the Princess a six pack.”

Superman and Lois actually continues to impress and get even better. There is an astonishing emphasis on fatherhood in this show which I absolutely adore. There is a lot more football though than Superman… And that criticism doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon! We had an interesting villain this week… At least we had him for five or 10 minutes. He brought back Dr. Killgrave, a mad scientist type from the comics, a C-lister at best but a nice little Easter egg for Superman fans. Whenever I hear about him, I can’t help but think about the Jerry Ordway cover with him in the robotic bulldozer.

I’m also intrigued by the role they have cast General Sam Lane in. He acts kind of as a liaison between Superman and the government or the army. I was never a big fan of this in Supergirl, and my first inclination is to kind of be annoyed by here as well, but it’s not entirely unheard of. If you’ve ever read the excellent Superman : Secret Identity miniseries  (it’s an elseworlds thing, but one of the best ones) They actually propose a similar situation, where there is a contact and Superman sometimes cooperates with the government… mostly to keep them off his back – trying to kidnap him and throw himin a tank of fiendish green liquid, and dissect him or whatever. It makes sense, and I am willing to concede this small bit of CW formula and darkness because there’s a lot of other things going on in the show. It’s a thrill to see Clark be a father to his sons, something that they’re really contrasting with the way General Lane raised Lois.

Speaking of Lois by the way, with every episode she solidifies further in my mind as the definitive Lois Lane. It’s brilliant the way they show her drive… She’s going to be a journalist in Smallville just as much as she was in Metropolis. It kind of shows that this is who she is, this is what compels her. It’s actually a nice mirror of Clark in that Superman, even without the powers would still have been all about trying to help people… He just would’ve had to go about it a different way. Lois, even without the Metropolitan setting in the high power connections is still going to fight for the voiceless in the best way she knows how.

There’s a great line in this episode as well, where Lana is having a drink with Lois, and she describes the real change that she saw in Clark after he moved to Metropolis. More confidence, he stood up straighter, he really grew up. Then she looks at Lois and says and she gets exactly where that comes from. You made him a better man.
I love this. It is a way of showing Lois‘s strength and brilliance, that builds up both her and Clark at the same time. We spent so much time in popular media where, to build the woman up as smart and strong, they have to tear their male counterpart down… It’s a really common trope in family sitcoms that always drove me nuts. The fact that they are accomplishing the same goal,  building Lois up as a quality female character, but doing so in a way that also builds up her male costars, it’s just so refreshing and rare that I feel a real need to call it out.

Indeed the rest of the media seems to be taking note. I saw a new article over at the AV club talking about how Superman on TV is the hero we need right now. That comes hot on the heels of last week’s article in the Los Angeles Times. I’m always pleased when the press finally gets it, but at the same time I’m equal parts frustrated because they seem so shocked that this works. The thing is, as we move further away from the 1950s, apple pie, baseball, truth and justice and the American way, as we move further into a more cynical post modern era, we crave these kind of aspirational and pure characters even more… not less. We start with Captain America, heck we see it in the Mandalorian even… The driving appeal of that series isn’t the cool Boba Fett armor, it’s not even the cute Baby Yoda. The moments that consistently move people to tears are the ones where Mando is being a father to Baby Yoda. There’s a hunger for that, and I give Superman and Lois enormous props for taking the steam and running with it.

It’s bringing in the viewers too, Superman and Lois set streaming records as well as being a ratings juggernaut, not only on broadcast, but also setting records in streaming and I have no idea what the CW is going to do when they replace it with the final season of Supergirl next month….swaping Superman and Lois with it’s 3.2 million viewers for Supergirl with it’s mere half a million or so viewers. *sigh*

I’m not entirely certain what I’m watching with the Flash. So, the Flash lost his speed again? We’re getting Wells back again? Wait, no. Wells is going away again? And Iris was in a coma, but was woken up by this weeks deus ex machina just in time to help get Barry’s speed back again, again? It feels like a muddled mess, like a rewrite on some of the old Half produced episodes from last year, but they couldn’t afford to get rid of footage so we get this weird duplication of themes from episode to episode.

I will say, when we do get a superhero antics, it’s spectacular. Actually, I think Superman and Lois could learn a trick or two in the flash when it comes to setting up the superhero battles… And I’m loving Vibe’s new costume. I like that the power is technical and not necessarily inside him… it’s not canon to the comics, but the Cisco Ramon on the show is a very different character than the one I’m used to seeing in the comics. I actually kind of like him better on TV!

You may remember some hubub last year when Hartley Sawyer, who plays Ralph Dinby, the Elongated Man, got himself canceled over old tweets. I think they are still tying up loose ends from the previous season, so they needed him around to at least give him a somewhat organic exit. They use some bizarre methods to bring Elongated Man back … With a melted face and then later on, A regeneration helmet that I bet will change his appearance so they can recast the character… But for the moment, they’re shipping him and Sue off the show to go on their own adventures offscreen while they figure out if they can bring the character back in some way shape or form.

Falcon and Winter Soldier also premiered, and I think I was actually looking forward to this one more than WandaVision. This series promised to be more of a straight up superhero show, and I was in particular looking forward to the introduction of John Walker, USAgent.

My first impressions were that they finally got Falcon right. The thing is, I always felt like the studio thought they needed to use him, but had no idea how. There’s already too many people in funny costumes in the Avengers movies, and Sam always got lost in the crowd. This time around they finally given him a proper outfit… Even back in the 80s, the red and white scheme on his suit really appealed to me, and I’m glad they’re finally leaning into it. They also get more into the dynamics, the tech, and the combat. It’s all something that we really needed from this character, and I’m glad to see them finally doing him justice.

Sebastian Stan is a welcome face as well. In fact, that’s really what this feels like. a family reunion with old friends. They start his scenes off with a flashback to the Winter Soldier days, and it’s comforting to see that costume and that actor. Yeah, comforting I think is indeed the word. It’s comfort food. Familiar and safe, with just a touch of new.

We’re getting to see more of the Falcons family, a destitute fishing clan in an area that’s been devastated by the events of Endgame. we se how that affects the mundane, things like credit scores and financial impacts. It’s a good hook, and one that you really couldn’t have done within the confines of a film. I am looking forward to see where this goes. I’m not expecting greatness. I’m not expecting cutting edge or revolutionary television, but good superhero fair with an underlining foundation of drama? Yeah. This definitely hits all those notes.

Elsewhere, I keep hearing about something new dropping this week… Something about Justice Cuts Zack or something? I can’t quite remember the name.

Never mind. probably it wasn’t that important anyhow… I’m sure it’ll come to me…

 


Week of March 7th

It’s interesting, the flash this year almost feels like The Flash’s big theme is “let’s see how many different kind of rolls Grant Gustin can play”. “Let’s stretch his range”. It’s as if he’s been watching Harrison Wells have too much fun with these different personas and it’s Barry’s turn now!

We do start off with some attractive people in the hall talking about their feelings… Most specifically talking about how sad they are that Wells is gone. I suppose this is appropriate, although our last scene shows that he might not be quite as gone as it seems! I’m eager to see where the shenanigans go later.

Barry however has gotten his speed back, and a new side effect! Speed thinking. This actually came in to play in the comics with impulse/kid flash, but has never really been explored it here on the TV show. They start off playing it for laughs, but it soon becomes a little sinister. Barry’s lost his emotions, and it’s an interesting look. Kind of the Flash if he were Batman.

It’s still feels though like we’re very much in the middle of a story arc, and the episode suffers a little bit from middle child syndrome. It’s less an adventure of it’s own, and more part of a serialized story. The equilibrium feels off on the show, and I’m hoping that they get their groove back soon. Still, I’m enjoying seeing the gang all back.

Superman and Lois on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have nearly as much attractive people talking in hallways about their feelings, it’s there, but more of it is teen angst than it is CW soap opera. They did have the best line of the week… “Do you drive a station wagon that’s currently on fire?”.

If I have any real complaints about the show though, it’s not there’s just not enough Superman. We get two good Set pieces with him, but for the most part it’s Clark and the kids. Not that this is it all bad, I actually happen to be every bit as fan of Clark Kent as I am of Superman… But the show is called Superman and Lois and I kind of miss seeing the red cape more. There’s a lot going on with the kids though, and they’re trying to build up a supporting cast. This is in enormously important in a Superman story… One of the things that really makes the Superman stories in Metropolis charming is Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, even the lesser supporting characters like cat Grant, Bibbo, and Dr. Hamilton. If the show really wants to succeed it’s going to have to build a strong supporting cast. Good news is, they seem to be on their way there. I’m not even really missing the old supporting characters… Perry White had obviously retired, and we know that Jimmy Olsen had moved to where ever it is Supergirl lives. The natural progression of the story has helped immensely… Indeed, I recall Brian Singer complaining that he didn’t know how to handle Superman. He used to complain that because Clark was invulnerable, the only way you could hurt him was emotionally. I don’t know if I subscribe to that. But if that’s the direction you want to go, the writers on Superman and Lois have figured it out. They’re playing on Clark’s own insecurities as a father and the general tough job of raising teenagers. It makes him emotionally vulnerable, and it makes him surprisingly human. You don’t need to make him a deadbeat dad the way singer did in Superman Returns, you don’t need him to be a creepy stalker spying on his ex-girlfriend and her new fiancé from the sky. Singer’s attempts at emotionally compromising Superman damaged the character, it made him into a loser, a jerk. Whereas the emotional beats and vulnerability that they are showing Superman and Lois, actually elevate Clark Kent… And I think make him more of a hero. I’m really enjoying what I’m seeing here, and I really hope that this Continues to stay the course with this level of quality. I’ll gladly put up with the sulking teenagers to have some quality Superman!

By the way, I mentioned Disenchantment a couple weeks ago. It continues to delight. I almost get the impression that Netflix just didn’t care anymore and were just fulfilling contractual obligations….and that they aren’t paying attention, because this show is getting weird. It’s more out there than previously, but it works. The episode we watched this week involved a psychotic unicorn, a trouser thief, Zog with PSTD and acting slightly undead and the marriage of the prince to a geriatric fairy named “Saggy”.

I can not recommend this enough.